Gone Home has gotten so much praise since it released, I knew I would eventually check it out. I was cautioned to wait until the game went down in price, as my friend said $20 was a lot to pay for how short the game is. I waited until it went half off and dove on in. I couldn’t wait to play a game based on exploration only. No fighting. No horror. Just roaming around and finding clues to tell you the story, like what made the first half of BioShock Infinite so great. I’ve played a few games like this on iOS, and I’ve loved them all. So excited a game with this type of gameplay was hitting “mainstream” gaming, so to speak.
For the most part, I loved the game and its story, but when it was over and the BIG REVEAL unfolded, I literally said out loud, “That’s it?”
And here come the spoilers. I’m sorry, I can’t accurately explain my disappointment without spoilers.
You play as Kaitlin (Katie) when she returns home after traveling around Europe for a year. No one is home to greet her other than a note on the door from her younger sister, Sam, that tells her to not tell anyone what happened, and oh btw, don’t snoop through my stuff. Oh, okay then.
So the player’s task as Katie is to find out where in the world her family is. They moved to this house while she was away, so she knows nothing about it and is completely unfamiliar with it, just like the player.
Since no one is home, of course you’re going to snoop through everyone’s things, and wow, you find out just how messed up your family is. Mom is having problems. Dad is having problems. Sam is a typical teenager screaming that she’s all alone and no one understands her. Naturally, she plays video games and listens to metal, so it makes sense that half the gaming world identifies with Sam. Honestly, if you were ever a teenager, you will identify with Sam. I listened to metal and played video games as a teen, my parents definitely didn’t understand me, and I had hard time making friends. In other words, I was normal. Let’s move on.
Now there’s another element to Sam’s drama, and that’s her first love, her best friend, Lonnie. Yes, Lonnie is a girl, and yes, how the ended up getting together was pretty gosh darn cute and sweet. And no, her parents and classmates most definitely did not understand this relationship, because this game was set in the late 1990s. Homosexuality wasn’t half as accepted as it is now, so there were no shockers there. (And for the record, before you slam me with hate mail, my issue with the game was not the homosexuality.)
All right, Sam has real emo problems. I get it. But uh, that’s why she left and robbed her parents while they were out on a marriage retreat to fix their problems? Yeah, I have zero sympathy for you now.
I suppose it’s because I’m a mom now, but I really identified more with the parents’ issues than Sam’s emo teenager phase. No, I’m not saying that I’ve gone through a horrific past like their father did. I’m saying I understand where the parents were in their careers, in their relationship with each other, and I understand how they handled their kids. Not saying they were perfect or they made the best choices, but I understand it better.
I honestly hope more exploration games release, but can they please be a little more interesting than an emo teenager running away from home?